Services Under IDEA for Your Preschool-age Child
My name is Laura Kaloi, and I am the director of public policy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Today's LD Talk topic is, "Services Under IDEA for Your Preschool-age Child." Our guest expert is Luzanne Pierce.
Often times children are not identified at birth as having a disability, but exhibit more subtle issues between the ages of three to five, such as:
- Speech and language delays or disorders;
- Putting shoes or mittens on the wrong feet or hands;
- Seeming uninterested in playing early learning games or listening to stories;
- Seeming mildly uncoordinated.
If you think you need to wait until your child's enrolled in school to address your concerns--think again.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created for children from *birth* to *age 21.* We are joined by Luzanne Pierce for this important and informative LD Talk, “Services under IDEA for your Preschool-age Child,” and Luzanne will offer her expertise and her knowledge of IDEA.
Luzanne Pierce, MAT, is a former Section 619 Coordinator for the state of New Hampshire. From 1992 to 2003 she directed the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC) sub-contract at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE).
Luzanne is the author of NCLD's Parent Advocacy Brief, Preschool Services under IDEA," co-author of early childhood documents on Autism, Preschool Inclusion, transitions and other topics for NECTAC and NASDSE, and a contributor to the 20th Annual Report to Congress on the IDEA implementation. The discovery of her daughter's learning disability led her to become a preschool special education teacher.
Recently, a parent wrote us and asked -- What kinds of services or programs are available for parents if they suspect their preschool-age child might have a disability? This is what we are here to discuss today, so let's get started.
Question from D. Cohen, family mediation consultant:
The 'rules' about requesting services for school-age children are well known, and both parents and teachers know to turn to their local school district for help. But the same is not at all true in the world of preschools. How can families learn about their entitlements under section 619 when there are so many different kinds of pre-K settings and so little (if any!) communication from agencies that are responsible for finding young children students who are in need of special services?
In every state department of education's special education office there is an individual assigned to follow Section 619 issues and to coordinate preschool special education. The Section 619 Coordinator in each state department of education, special education office or bureau, can tell families what programs and services are available in their state and can give local contact information.
For a comprehensive overview, click here to read NCLD's Parent Advocacy Brief, Preschool Services under IDEA.
For a list of state Section 619 coordinators with contact information see: http://www.nectac.org/contact/619coord.asp
Question from Shira Nahmias, Special Education Teacher, Cooke Center for Learning and Development:
I am a special education teacher working with children 3-5 years of age. Part of my job is to work with parents and help them navigate the "special education system" and inform them of their rights. I have worked in different states, and I find that some states are better at getting the word out there than others (putting pamphlets about early intervention and early education in physicians offices, etc.) --Are there state by state guidelines for how to "get the word out" and inform parents that they are entitled to consultations and evaluations free of charge, and more importantly, the names of these institutions and early intervention agencies that provide these services and where to find them?
State laws and regulations for Child Find are typically patterned on the federal law but may go beyond the federal requirements for locating children. Each state develops its own definition of disability (within the federal parameters for those disabilities that are defined by the federal law such as Specific Learning Disability) and sets the eligibility criteria.
The differences in state procedures may be explained by specifics of each state's approach including: the eligibility criteria, the scope of public awareness campaigns, methods (local and/or regional screening and the use of contractors to conduct child find) and of course, the amount of funds available. These are the factors that create the appearance of "differences" in getting the word out. Each state generally has a federally funded Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) which is charged with sharing information with the public about available services.
The web sites listed below contain helpful information for parents and information on different procedures. Policies developed at the state and local levels determine the nature and extent of Child Find procedures.
Question from Jamie Anderson, Mom:
If services are available from birth, where does the parent who suspects her child might have a disability go for help outside of the school systems?
School systems are required to conduct Child Find for Birth-21 and to refer parents of children below Age 3 to local Part C Infant/Toddler programs These programs offer diagnostic testing and a variety of therapy and child development services. Hospitals, physicians’ offices and well-child clinics have information about access to these services. The school system is the infrastructure that supports information and referral for Birth- 21 and information, referral and services for 3-21.
Parents of children below Age 3 who have specific questions about services can contact the Part C Infant/Toddler program lead agency in their state for information about where to seek help. See http://www.nectac.org/contact/ptccoord.asp.
Question from donnica conway, facilitator, families helping families of Southeast,la:
A lot of schools are saying that because the child is 3 they don't have to provide services to kids under IDEA, when their four but not three. What can parents or advocates say or reference when something like this happens?
Under IDEA, a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is available to every child who is determined to have a disability on the third birthday. Schools need to provide an IEP and services to each child who is identified. If the local school system does not have the capacity to provide the services themselves, they can contract with private preschools and other community agencies serving young children.
Question from Anonymous:
If research is saying early detection can be good for the child -- how come public school specialists do not want to label a problem early? For instance, I knew very early(preschool) my younger son had a problem, ADD, but I could not get an accurate diagnosis or IEP for him until he was in 4th grade.
I would like to give the specialists the benefit of the doubt. Since all children mature differently, public school specialists are sensitive to the need to give each child the chance to reach developmental milestones without a label. That said, your situation does sound extreme. There is also the case of parents who are unsure about their instincts and experiences with their child, or who feel it would be a negative thing to seek special help for a child. Research and experience show us that by helping children as soon as possible considerably increases their capacity to not only catch up and keep pace with their peers, but to have the self confidence and understanding of their own learning styles and needs to have better academic experiences.
Schwab Learning has a great resource on early detection entitled Catching Language Problems Early.
Qustion from S. Aleichem, pre-K team leader (private school):
What is the status of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)under section 619? Has it been replaced by IEPs that extend downward to include younger children? I have never seen an IEP that includes the kind of detail that is in an IFSP.
Children and families who are enrolled in the Part C program are entitled to the IFSP. There has been an optional recent change in the status of the IFSP. Under IDEA 2004 the IFSP can now be extended upward to age 6 for a child who has been enrolled in The Part C Infant/Toddler Program if a state has adopted this new policy. (So far, no states have adopted the policy.)This option is not available for children who enter special education after their third birthday. In each state "all parties involved" i.e. state agencies and parents must agree to this policy. If a state has not adopted the new policy, the IFSP can be continued at the discretion of a child’s team for a specified period during the transition from Part C.
The IFSP and the may address different things because infants and toddlers developmental needs and functional skill levels are different than preschoolers and the school-age child; however, the expectation that each child should be developing along a continuum with individual supports and services remains constant for both. Because of the changes in IDEA 2004, under the new policy, if parents choose to have their child's IFSP continued (rather than they are also choosing not to have their child receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Under IDEA 2004, the IFSP must have an education and pre-literacy component.
For review of current state policies regarding preschool eligibility and services see: http://www.nectac.org/~pdfs/pubs/sec619_2007.pdf
Question from Ms. Ellen, day care provider in Tennessee:
So many of my young students show up to school with almost no 'readiness skills.' I am concerned about ALL of these children from the first day of school, but it would be unreasonable to refer them all for special help. It takes a few months before I can really tell whether they are making progress or struggling to learn. My question is this: how long should I wait before making a referral for special education? And how can I know whether waiting a bit longer would be a good thing to do given the enormous amount of catching up these students have to do?
This is a great question! We all know that parents or other significant "hands-on" 24/7 adults help children in many aspects of development, including school readiness skills. So many young children's lives are chaotic today and many come to school unprepared for what lies ahead. Readiness to learn suffers for a number of reasons, including special needs. It's important to allow children time to settle down in school and to get to know them and their families before pursuing special help. An honest conversation with parents about your concerns might touch upon the child's physical and medical health as well as the particular concerns that you have about the child's ability to make progress in early academics and social areas.
One excellent resource is Recognition & Response. Recognition & Response is a new way of thinking about making sure that all children have the best opportunities to learn. It is designed to ensure that young children in all types of early care and education settings receive the attention they need to be successful in school. Unlike ‘special education’ (which by definition focuses attention on a small selection of students who demonstrate ‘problems’ with learning), Recognition & Response is meant for all children and helps adults pay careful attention to the overall quality of their early learning experiences. When children show signs of struggle, the Recognition & Response approach includes steps that should be taken to modify the program, tailor instruction, and provide specific types of support. It also makes sure that children’s progress is monitored over time and that this information is shared among teachers and parents.
For more information, go to RecognitionandResponse.org.
Question from Stacey Kannenberg, Author of Let's Get Ready For Kindergarten! and Let's Get Ready For First Grade!:
What are some things that parents can do to help promote a learning environment at home?
Parents don't have to feel guilty or try to become child development professionals. They can have fun with their child and provide many different experiences in the community and at home – trips to the firehouse, visiting farms, singing songs in the car, cooking and reading are only a few of the activities parents and children can share. A loving grown-up and lots of exposure to spoken and written language and to age-appropriate new experiences can ensure the best type of learning environment at home.
NCLD has wonderful free, downloadable games and activities to play with your preschooler on its Get Ready to Read! Web site at http://www.getreadytoread.org/.
Also, Schwab Learning has an excellent resource specific to early literacy--Preparing Your Preschooler to Read.
Question from Kat Lowrance, Director of Family Empowerment Center:
Can you identify for us states that are currently practicing the IDEA Early Intervention birth-5 allowabilty? I am in CA and it is not providing IFSP services birth-5.
A very few states have Birth-Five systems provided by their departments of education. In these states the IFSP is also defined as the IEP. Maine and Oregon are the states providing IFSP's. For information about IEP/IFSP polcies in all the states check the Section 619 Profile, a publication of NECTAC, available at the NECTAC Web site.
Question from Anonymous:
What do you do if a part of the child's IEP is not being implemented because "there is no money for that" or "we don't have the resources for that" (resons given for not implementing or adding something to the child's IEP.
Every service and program named in a child's IEP must be implemented. If the IEP team has agreed that something is to be included in the IEP, the only way the program and/or service can be dropped is by an IEP team decision. Under Due Process, parents can file a formal complaint if a part of the IEP is not being implemented. A number of helpful publications on parent' rights can be found at the links below:
Question from Dale Brown, Senior Manager, LD OnLine:
Is your child considered "learning disabled" if they get services between the ages of 3-5?
What is meant by "considered" in this question? No child should be receiving services without the benefit of the full special education process. That means that a child has been identified as Learning Disabled by their school district team (including parents), has an IEP and attends a program. Children age 3-5 are more likely to be identified as Developmentally Delayed under the IDEA criteria, or could also be receiving speech/language services -- but increasingly, the Learning Disability criteria and a young child are a match.
Some school districts offer therapies independently from the special education process, just to help some children who may have issues in Speech/Articulation, for example.
Question from JP Cohen, School Psychologist, Branford Schools:
In Connecticut, children are often eligible for Special Education early intervention services under the category "Developmentally Delayed". Do you agree that this generic categorization is more appropriate for many young children than is a more specific label of "Learning Disabled" or.... I think young children should not receive specific labels such as LD, because they vary so greatly at these young ages and will often catch up. Some labels, however, with a complete evaluation by specialists, need not wait, such as "Autistic". What is your view on this?
The short answer is "Yes." Young children are subject to many variables in their lives and development. Occasionally though, a young child will show very clear neurological signs of a learning disability such as many many left/right reversals, eye-hand coordination issues and/or memory for directions that point the way to a learning disability. It's best to be vigilant.
Question from K. Golembeski:
I have spoken with my son's preschool teacher about my concerns regarding his lack of interest in playing with other children. She keeps saying he'll grow out of it. I think she means well, but might not have enough experience to know what is typical and atypical. What do you suggest I do?
It's important to get a variety of people’s impressions of your son – grandparents, your physician, parents of other children his age, and other adults who see him on a regular basis, and for you to observe him in different situations beside the preschool. You are one of the best authorities on your child... If you decide to go further – a good physical exam, including hearing and vision checks could be your next step. The IDEA provides a screening and diagnostic process that is implemented through your local public school.
NCLD's IDEA Guide provides a comprehensive overview of the evaluation process.
Question from Terri Kothe - mother:
My four year old has difficulty remembering and singing nursery rhymes and cannot memorize Bible verses like her siblings did. She also is in speech therapy. Do you think that is an indicator of dyslexia. Her six yr old sister is dyslexic and we suspect the same for the four year old. What are your thoughts?
Given that her sister is dyslexic, you could ask the speech therapist for her opinion about your daughter's progress. It sounds like you are familiar with the process and know that your daughter is entitled to a battery of tests in different developmental areas under Child Find.
NCLD has a checklist you can use as well to weigh the level of concern you may have for what is age appropriate skill development.
Schwab Learning has a very useful article: Early Signs of a Reading Difficulty.
Question from Anonymous:
What can or should be done for those children who after screening are identified as "borderline" and thusly don't qualify for services?
Some local school districts have a "watch list" policy where a "borderline" child is followed for a certain time period after screening. In some states (Oregon, for one) children are followed through local early childhood coalitions. Parents may always request (in writing) another evaluation by the local school district.
Question from Ann Marie Liskey, parent:
Are there specific eligibility criteria for a child who receives related services to attend a LEA's integrated preschool program in county where preschool is offered for children requiring special education and tuition paying peers? Under IDEA is this an IEP team decision?
Yes. If the school district’s evaluation team determines that the child is a “Child with a Disability” as defined in IDEA, an IEP team meets to develop the IEP and the child is eligible to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and can attend an integrated or other type of preschool classroom.
Question from Anonymous:
What are some appropriate evaluation tools to identify delays in preschool age children? Are School Psychologists more qualified to do developmental evalutions than individuals certified in regular and special early childhood education?
A wide range of evaluation tools is in use for preschool children. No single test is required across the country for developmental evaluations. "On the ground" informal observations by professionals in a child’s preschool or other natural setting can also give valuable information about suspected delays. Most formal tests have requirements for who can administer them. In some cases, a school psychologist may be the only professional qualified to use a particular developmental evaluation. Some tests do not require any formal training. For more information, click here to download "Early Childhood Measures Profiles," a directory of early childhood evaluations.
Question from Kelly Andrews, project coordinator, Reading Rockets / Colorin Colorado / LD OnLine:
Do you have any examples of who is handling services under IDEA for preschool-age children well -- perhaps certain states that excel in this field? To be even more precise, which school districts stand out more so than others?
IDEA services for preschool children seem to do best in the states where there are networks of early childhood centers at the local level. In other words, the "It takes a village approach..." Children and parents in those states get a lot of support in their communities and are helped to identify a special need if one arises. Maine, Maryland and Oregon are examples of states where a lot is happening at the local level and lots of agencies are colaborating.
Question from Anonymous:
I have a big concern in the area of transition from Part C to Part B-especially if the child has their 3rd birthday occurring anywhere from March to June. IDEIA 2004 talks about the requirement for an IEP to be in place by the child's birthday. The concern I have with the children who have birthdays that fall from March-June that an IEP is in place but indicating that services will be provided at the beginning of school in August. We have had schools say that these children are not eligible for ESY services and so there is a period of 1-4 months that they have no services. What can families do to make sure that there will be no interruption in services when they transition from part C to Part B?
IDEA allows, subject to the agreement of parents, the local school system and the local Part C program, for children to remain in the Part C program over the summer and therefore to continue to receive services. All parties must agree and financial responsibility for the services during the summer must be clearly determined. The Web site below provides much helpful information on transition to Part B services. Parents should remind all professionals of this option as soon as they enter early intervention services.
Question from Loisann Arnold, Executive Director, Champions for Children:
If a family wants their child in an inclusive preschool room and the school district does not have one, is the district responsible for paying for a child care (private) inclusive setting?
Parents, as members of the team can request the inclusive placement if needs for language development, social skills, and other aspects that are best learned in such a setting are included in the IEP. Around the country, many school districts either pay tuition to private inclusive preschools, or establish their own preschool mainstream classrooms.
Question from Gloria J. Brown, Early Intervention Specialist United Migrant Opportunity Services, Inc.:
What instrument do you use on a 3-5 year old to yield an accurate IQ score that is also culturally sensitive?What instrument do you use to determine if the child is functioning below a level expected compared to the IQ score to determine a discrepancy?
Many measures of IQ for preschool children are in use around the country. The Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) is an instrument that yields discrepancies. Reading test manuals and checking with publishers can also be helpful. The link below is to a directory of tests and measurements for young children.
Read more about Luzanne Pierce, MAT
Laura Kaloi, NCLD Director of Public Policy (Moderator):
That concludes our discussion for today. Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful questions and thanks to our expert, Luzanne Pierce, for her time today.
Download NCLD’s Parent Advocacy Brief, Preschool Services under IDEA by Luzanne Pierce today.